Homecoming Week: the art of creating a float

October 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm 1 comment


Sophomore Kelsey Ohlbaum pomps during Homecoming week. Float construction and pomping started on Sunday and ends Friday.

Chicken wire, wood, and tissue paper.

Sounds like a strange combination, right? Not during Homecoming week.

Those three items—along with some glue, nails, and hard work—create a float for the Homecoming parade, which will wind from Beaver Stadium to College Avenue in about 2.5 hours starting at 6 Friday evening. It’s all in the art of “pomping.”

Here’s what you need:

1. Pomps

Pomping guidelines are very specific and can be found on the Homecoming website in the Homecoming Rulebook. According to the website, pomps are 5 1/2” x 5 1/2” sheets of colored tissue paper and must be ordered through Penn State Homecoming. Organizations purchase a variety of colors based on what your theme is. Veterans to Homecoming know to order more than what you need because you can only order through Penn State Homecoming—if you run out, you can’t just make a trip to Walmart.

Nittany Co-Op supplies the pomps, which cost $2.05 per pack. Homecoming suggests ordering pomps in 12s or 24s because the pomps are prepackaged this way. You may need as many as 30 boxes of pomps to cover the entire float.

2. Wood

The float cannot exceed 8 feet wide x 20 feet long x 15 feet high. The float has guidelines in the Homecoming Rulebook, as well. At check-in, each float must have safety chains, quick links, a triangle reflector, and a 10 pound fire extinguisher. The rulebook also suggests that someone guards your float at all times.

3. Chicken wire

Chicken wire hangs all around the constructed float to structure it. The wire is also ordered through Penn State Homecoming, where a 50-foot roll costs $16.90. One piece of tissue paper goes through each hole in the wire. Before pushing the paper through, you paint the wire with glue—$11 per gallon—to ensure the pomp sticks.

You can imagine, the cost to build a float is quite expensive.

“Generations Evolve, Tradition Remains” is Homecoming’s overall theme, and each organization interprets that in its own way, pending Homecoming’s approval.

Building the actual float is the real task. It generally takes a few hours to construct the structure of the float. It’s simply wood and nails, but easier said than done. The chicken wire hangs around it, giving it a shape. Then using tape, sketch the design you want. The tape separates what color pomps will go through the chicken wire, which is pomping—filling chicken wire with rolled-up tissue paper.

Pomping is not difficult, nor does it take skill. It’s actually rather mind-numbing. Deciding on a theme, building and placing colors take some creativity, but anyone can pomp. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.

Pomping does, however, require a lot of time, dedication, and people to complete. With my co-ed fraternity, which has about 50 members, we are required to pomp for a minimum of five hours each. It takes a lot of man-power to get through the week successfully.

But you can take a boring situation and make it fun with music and friends, and seeing your final product is a good feeling.


Pomping black and pink tissue paper creates a poodle.

Organizations with floats are allowed five people on a float with two people walking in front of the float with a banner. I, personally, will not be in the Homecoming Parade, but I will be there watching. I will comfortably find my spot on Shortlidge with the brothers from my co-ed fraternity. I’m not supposed to say what my fraternity’s theme is, but let’s just say our float is “electrifying.”

Sarah Olah, intern

Entry filed under: Alumni Association. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Art supplies  |  December 7, 2013 at 12:39 am

    It is an amazing art. I like your blog and way of describing. Thanks for sharing.

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